I love blue flowers. Silence me?

IMG_1139_1Matthew Dylan Cairns,
Blue Springs, MO.

We need to be able to have opinions without being silenced our ostracized.

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

  • You should have kept your mouth shut. The newly founded Anti-Blue-Flower League is coming to get you. You better not like yellow flowers either!

  • barry irving

    …maybe you could state one???

  • Maurin Quina

    I think what Matthew is getting at here is a breakdown in methods of discourse. Too often ‘starting a conversation’ is a slippery slope towards ‘starting an argument’. Even on this site, comment threads too often devolve into blame or derision about who’s behaving badly, or who’s poorly educated, or some variation of ’you’re wrong wrong, WRONG you’re WRONG!!!!!’ (to paraphrase).

    Constructive conversation involves empathy between both parties, and an attempt to understand your opponent’s point of view while at the same time defending your own. A lack of empathy on either side means that the conversation ceases to be constructive. Smacking down someone’s opinion is very different than disagreeing with their opinion — the difference is in how the disagreement is conveyed.

    With highly charged issues like race, but also politics, gender, conflict resolution styles, parenting styles, religion — issues like these are deeply interwoven with people’s identities. Having a conversation about such topics is touchy, because when we try to talk about identity constructs in the abstract, we actually end up talking about the people who identify with those constructs — and it’s very likely that any statements made will be taken personally, even if it was never meant in that way. In this case a conversation can devolve into defensiveness and counterattacks, with both parties walking away indignantly believing that they were right. In the end, neither one really learned from the other and no bridges were built.

    The silence that Matthew speaks of can take severe forms, such as institutional censorship or organized persecution, but it can also be insidious and self-imposed, in the form of not wanting to say what one thinks in day-to-day life for fear of being belittled, ostracized, offending someone or being otherwise dehumanized by one’s family, workplace or community.

    I think that the need to be ‘right’ all the time drives many of us. Nobody likes to be corrected in public, especially not in a confrontational manner. In my experience, this can result in two unfortunate extremes:
    1) People who are over-confident in their ‘rightness’ can become serial know-it-alls who enter conversations with the assumption that they know better than everyone else in the room, and thus become the loudest people in the room.
    2) People who are under-confident in their ‘rightness’ can become discouraged from joining conversations in the first place, fearful that they’ll be cast out or humiliated for their beliefs, and thus never even enter the room.

    Both of these behavioral extremes are damaging for the art of conversation. This is a difficult topic to look squarely in the face, because it’s not about the content of our conversations: it’s about the methods by which we converse, and how those methods are received by others. All of us have a responsibility to be aware of the type of voice we bring into a room, in order to keep communication safe and open for everyone involved.

 

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